If your “check engine” light goes on in your car, check it. When my engine light came on, we took it to the Toyota dealership in Neiderheid (nice people there) to get it checked and got a quick lesson in local rodents.
Our Experience: The mechanics ran a few tests and then lifted the hood. The insulation in the hood was shredded in several places. The engine and all the parts inside were very dirty and sticky, and… three little wires inside were completely severed.
Our question immediately was, “what could have done this?” The response: Marder. We didn’t understand that German word. So the man described it as a cat-like animal and eventually led us to this sign that they had in the window at the dealership.
A marder is a meter long weasel-like animal that lives here. When the cables and wires in a car are warm from the motor, they give off a smell that is similar to the female pheromone, so it attracts the males who climb up into the engine area, spray and chew up things. Then the females smell the male’s spray and come and go a bit crazy (the guy at the dealership actually made a face, shook his head, and made a noise like a rabid hormone-crazed marder, but I can’t do that here… just imagine it… it was quite funny). So, a marder pair had a party in my van.
Apparently it is a big problem here. According to our mechanic, half of all engine problems in this area are caused by marders. Many people have had to replace their entire engines. We got lucky with a quick and inexpensive repair.
So what to do? Our first thought: mouse traps. Not a possibility. Marders are protected by German law. It is illegal to kill them. You can trap them, but locals have told us that they have a remarkable sense of territory and have been trapped and carried away only to return to the same area. The only thing you can do is to spray this Marder Shutz on the engine. We scrubbed the engine and all around it, then sprayed it with this sticky gunk. A couple days later we looked inside and saw a nice line of fur stuck to one of the parts below the engine.
Our neighbor said she had one living in her attic for a while and she’s seen them in the field next door. They are harmless to people and actually, aside for their engine fetish, are quite good because they kill and eat mice. Articles in the paper have said that this season (spring 2006) is a particularly bad one with a high population of marder.
Another friend said that after smelling a rather foul smell right after she moved here, she found the remnants of a rabbit under her hood – how sweet! It brought her a present! Doesn’t it make you want to take one home for a pet?